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Copper Still

ca.1771-1795
Origin: Britain, Scotland, Glasgow
Overall height: about 40" Still body: Diameter: about 25" Spout: 14" x 3" Capacity: about 50 gallons Still head: Height: 16" Top: about 14" x 14 5/8" (ovoid) Spout: 29 1/2" x 3 3/4"
Copper and lead
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2014-29,A&B
Sheet copper still of about 50-gallon capacity, composed of two main components;

1) Spheroid body constructed from four worked sheets of copper riveted together, including a bottom, a top with a necked aperture and a two-piece sidewall. A spout with a rolled mouth is riveted into the bottom piece and three evenly-spaced handles are riveted to the top of the sidewall.

2) Working-life replacement still head of tapering form with a long spout. The head's body is lock-seamed & soldered with a flat, crimped-on top. To reduce its diameter at the bottom so it fits into the still body, a large notch was cut out and the sides cinched and riveted together. The worm spout is solder-seamed and attached to the body of the still head, also with solder.
Label:Although expensive and difficult to import, many stills were owned in the Chesapeake region by the late colonial period. In the 1760s and 1770s, stills of all sizes were advertised for sale in the Virginia Gazette, along with components for those seeking to repair or build their own devices. A staple of everyday life, the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages like whiskey and rum was a local phenomenon, with large planters supplying the lion's share of liquor for sale.

This still was wrought by the firm of Stephen Maxwell & Co. of Glasgow, Scotland, and was made specifically for America. Since Maxwell's firm, in business off of Argyll Street from 1771 until the early 1790s, specialized in making stills for the "West India plantations," it is not surprising that this example is marked EXPORT. With a capacity of about 50 gallons, this still could have been for use by a middling household or in conjunction with others as part of a larger distilling operation. After many years of hard use the original still head was replaced with a locally made one during the 19th Century.
Provenance:Purchased by the vendor from an elderly Richmond area collector.
Inscription(s):Top of the still body punched "STEPHEN MAXWELL & COY MAKERS GLASGOW NO 227 EXPORT."